Wiltshire Publications

Town Council under fire over cost of mayoral robes

WESTBURY Town Council has decided to introduce ceremonial mayoral robes for the first time, but have come under fire from frustrated local residents who consider it a waste of public money. 

The motion to provide the mayor with official dress was passed at a meeting in January this year, and the proposed outfit would cost the council around £1,300.

The motion proposal said, “Westbury Town Council is one of the few councils that has no mayoral robes, and at many functions the mayor is disadvantaged and Westbury shown as the poor relation amongst many, which is disadvantageous considering it is one of the larger and more important town councils in the county.

“It should be considered as to whether the prestige and standing of the town and its mayor could be enhanced by the provision of such regalia.”

The vote was won seven to five: cllrs Andrews, Bradshaw, Cunningham, Hawker, Jenkins, Sutton, and Windess voted in favour of the change, while cllrs King, Mitchell, Morland, Taylor, and Tout rejected the motion. Cllrs Ezra and Wakeman abstained from the vote.

The current Mayor of Westbury, cllr Christine Mitchell, voted against the motion. She said,  “I voted against the motion because in my two terms as mayor I have never felt the need to wear a robe to impress anybody.

“Lots of town mayors do have them but they’re often from councils a lot bigger than ours, and it seems to me to just be a display of status.

“That said, that is my personal opinion and by the time they arrive it won’t be me that has to wear them!”

Deputy mayor, cllr David Bradshaw, who voted in favour of the motion, is expected to become mayor in May this year.

Cllr Bradshaw said, “The mayor should have a high profile and strong presence in the town, and when attending events where other mayors are in uniform it seems as though we have a smaller presence without one.

“Westbury has almost quadrupled in size since the council was formed as a parish council in the 1970s. We cover a much larger area now and will be taking on a vast amount more responsibility in the coming years. It seems only fitting to afford an increasingly important position the proper equipment so that Westbury can be represented equally alongside other towns, and not be looked upon as the poorer cousin.

“Westbury is in the minority, especially among towns this size, in not having a formal dress. The vast majority of mayors do have traditional uniform, and the feeling within the council is that we ought to as well.

“With regards to cost and fit, the robes are adjustable and will be ‘one size fits most’; this is not something we will have to replace.  Of course £1,000 is a lot of money these days, but we fully expect the robes to last for 20-30 years, so the long term cost is negligible.

“I have spoken to a lot of people and haven’t encountered a single person who thinks it’s a bad idea, a waste of time, or a waste of money. Everybody has said the opposite.

“Westbury has never had robes and I don’t know why, but introducing them will go a long way to enhance the image of Westbury and of our town council.”

Letters to White Horse News have  expressed concern at the decision to spend council money on the robes.

Ex-mayor Charlie Finbow said, “It is an outrage that in these times of great austerity that our town council should cheer themselves up by buying mayoral attire.

“How are they going to cope with this attire? Even I’m observant enough to see councillors come in different shapes and sizes.

“Or will they just buy one and if you can’t fit into it you can’t be mayor? Move aside Cinderella, Westbury Town Council is now a pantomime.

“This is money which would be better spent on all the struggling voluntary groups in our town who do so much yet get so little.

“Those councillors who voted for this utter nonsense should hang their heads in shame.”

Another local resident, Michael Hawkins said, “The contribution that the office of mayor makes to this town is not based on wearing fancy medieval dress, but on what he/she is seen to be contributing through promoting Westbury and supporting local charities.

“The people of Westbury deserve better than this nonsense! This is a total waste of OUR money.”